a blog by knut skjærven

The Lightness Of Life (10)

In Frames.© Knut Skjærven.

About In Frames. The picture has nothing particular to do with the text below. It has been added to break the monotony of the page. It was not part of the original interview. 

Do you have a photographic mission?

Do I have a photographic mission? Hmm, interesting question and the truth is that I don’t know. On the other hand, I probably know a little more now than I used to know.

If you had asked me a year ago, no two years ago, I would have said that I have no photographic mission beyond that of taking pictures. However, the more I study photography the less important photography becomes in terms of having an existence of its own. Photography does not exist in a vacuum and it should not be treated as if it did.

Photography is just another way of being in and handling the world, so the question you should ask is really: Do I have a mission in life?

And the answer is: I think that most people have a mission in life even if they do not formulate it and spell it out in words. I find that it for me comes down to something like live and let live. If I can express that in photography that will be my photographic mission.

What I sometimes remind myself of is that time spent with photography, or any other activity for that matter, is time NOT spent with anything else. You can’t use the same capacity twice. Every economist knows this well: You cannot both spend and invest the same money at the same time. If you try to do that you end up in a financial mess.

More specifically, I cannot at the same time take a seat at Café de la Paix for a day of shooting people passing the street, and feed the ducks in my own back yard. Just as an illustration. I fail to see the benefits of what I call the dark league in photography. Photography better be about death and sorrow, they say, so we can save the world with our images. Better be portraits of depraved people too so we can show how miserable some are. I don’t go all with those masters of disasters.

Shooting the odd drunk on the way to coffee at the Ritz is much too easy. It is also deeply disrespectful unless you make it your project and bring the poor fellow back home and give him a good life. Or give him a good day. Taking his picture will certainly not help.

Also: As grown-ups we all are role models. That goes for photography too. If you want to be treated with respect, then show respect. If you want to be treated like a jerk, then be a jerk. Photography should basically be respectful.

Basically, all angles (camera angles and real life angles) have the same right to exist, but the foot must be put down when the rights and the privileges of having angles, are threatened. They still are in many corners of the world. We don’t have to look far.

If the rights to take pictures with and from different angles are threatened, we can no longer use our cameras as they were intended to be used: Taking pictures from different angles, with different settings and in different contexts. I hope I will fight for that right. Call that a mission if you like.

I have to add one thing: You have to do the best you can. Always try a little harder. I don’t believe that any person should be satisfied with doing things half way or in mediocrity. Photography, mission or no mission, is mostly hard work.

If you absolutely have to save the world with your photography, be aware that social progress comes from play and not from display.

—–

What About Henri Cartier – Bresson? The Lightness Of Life.

(Links to all sections).

Prelude; The Lightness Of Life (1);  The Lightness of Life (2 & 3); The Lightness of Life (4); The Lightness of Life (5); The Lightness of Life (6); The Lightness of Life (7); The Lightness of Life (8); The Lightness of Life (9); The Lightness of Life (10); The Lightness of Life (11).


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